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Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Leavin on a jet plane

Maher Arar, of Canada, says American agents kidnapped him

Suit by Detainee on Transfer to Syria Finds Support in Jet's Log

Published: March 30, 2005

This article was reported by Scott Shane, Stephen Grey and Ford Fessenden and written by Mr. Shane.

WASHINGTON, March 29 - Maher Arar, a 35-year-old Canadian engineer, is suing the United States, saying American officials grabbed him in 2002 as he changed planes in New York and transported him to Syria where, he says, he was held for 10 months in a dank, tiny cell and brutally beaten with a metal cable.

Now federal aviation records examined by The New York Times appear to corroborate Mr. Arar's account of his flight, during which, he says, he sat chained on the leather seats of a luxury executive jet as his American guards watched movies and ignored his protests.

The tale of Mr. Arar, the subject of a yearlong inquiry by the Canadian government, is perhaps the best documented of a number of cases since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in which suspects have accused the United States of secretly delivering them to other countries for interrogation under torture. Deportation for interrogation abroad is known as rendition.

In papers filed in a New York court replying to Mr. Arar's lawsuit, Justice Department lawyers say the case was not one of rendition but of deportation. They say Mr. Arar was deported to Syria based on secret information that he was a member of Al Qaeda, an accusation he denies.

The discovery of the aircraft, in a database compiled from Federal Aviation Agency records, appears to corroborate part of the story Mr. Arar has told many times since his release in 2003. The records show that a Gulfstream III jet, tail number N829MG, followed a flight path matching the route he described. The flight, hopscotching from New Jersey to an airport near Washington to Maine to Rome and beyond, took place on Oct. 8, 2002, the day after Mr. Arar's deportation order was signed.

After seeing a photograph of the plane and hearing its path, Mr. Arar, 35, of Ottawa, said in a telephone interview: "I think that's it. I think you've found the plane that took me."

He added: "Finding this plane is going really to help me. It does remind me of this trip, which is painful, but it should make people understand that this is for real and everything happened the way I said. I hope people will now stop for a moment and think about the morality of this."

Records of the jet's travels also show a trip in December 2003 to Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, where the United States holds hundreds of detainees, suggesting that it was used by the government on at least one other occasion.

If the plane was used to move Mr. Arar, it is the fourth known to have been used to transport suspected terrorists secretly from one country to detention in another.


posted by Steve @ 12:51:00 AM

12:51:00 AM

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